'Maldoiya' Migrant: Bibi Hawa

Bibi HawaBibi Hawa is about 70 years old. She was born in Rajshahi (in Bangladesh), her mother was from India. They are what those from Dinajpur call the 'Maldoiyas' and believe to be very good agriculturalists who clear new land and cultivate it before selling it off and moving again.

Bibi Hawa spoke of her family:

My mother used to lose her children soon after birth. She gave birth to six boys but only two survived. After that she couldn't get any more kids. For five whole years she prayed and prayed asking Allah to give her a daughter and that if her wish was fulfilled she would name her 'Hawa' [another name for Eve] after the first woman Allah created. And I was born.

Two cows and two goats were killed for my wedding, we also had pithas, polao and rossogulas and invited about 50 people. Then a cart pulled by buffaloes was brought in and we drove all the way to Kandopur in the Birol district where my in-laws lived [Birol is along the border].

DinajpurWe Indians came here after 1947. We were living in Chapai and losing our land to the river then one of us got word that this place was a forest and that if we reclaimed it, it would belong to us.

We initially lived in Kandopur for six years. Land there was very expensive so we sold off our land and bought, with the price we got for it, double the amount here. My father-in-law had 25 bighas there and each bigha sold for 1,200 takas, we got our bighas here for 600 takas each. So we bought 50 bighas here. My husband did well and ended up with 60 bighas of land. He also had six sons so he gave them each 10 bighas of land.

This place was a total forest. The first person to come here was Ramzan Ali – my maternal grandfather’s elder brother – just like Columbus.

Members of her family were killed in 1971:

Because we used to move between borders people never trusted Maldoiyas and thought we associated with the Pakistanis. Suddenly one Wednesday morning, people calling themselves 'mukti bahini' [freedom fighters] arrived from another village and locked him [her husband] up and said they would call a meeting. They tied him and his brothers and father and put a handkerchief on their mouths and then shot all of them – one by one. They killed my father-in-law, my husband and three of his brothers. Then they stole our cows and our cart.

The locals helped them because they were jealous of our land and because they thought that if our menfolk got killed they could take our land. The Indian army saved the rest of us. They came and protected us. Those mukti bahini killed 139 people around here. The mukti bahini thought we would return to India and they would take over our lands and hearths.

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